I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve edited the work I’m gathering in my MFA application portfolio. It is quite amazing how many times one can read something and still find things to adjust. You think it’s perfect, and then you read again and find another typo, another sentence to re-phrase, another word to tighten up meaning.
It makes me laugh when I ask my students to edit something they’ve written and they refuse, because they are sure it’s perfect as it is. First draft perfection. The Mozart Effect perhaps? Do you remember the scene in the movie when Salieri realized that the perfect music score he’s looking at is a first draft- that Mozart took entire scores out of his head and just put them on paper without a single erasure? It was traumatizing for him that the irritating, immature Mozart had such a glorious genius to craft heavenly music apparently without effort.
While my students are amazing, I don’t teach that many geniuses. Trust me, even the geniuses have no excuse not to edit.
There is a strange power in understanding that while perfection may be an impossible goal, the process of editing is a journey toward finding the best in our ideas. Getting the ideas out initially is one process, but trimming those ideas to bring them to a polished brevity that catches the reader with its brilliance is something else. Editing never ends. Improvement is always possible. Perfection is a journey to understanding.
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